College endorsement deals creates a shift in spots marketing

It's been a year since the NCAA ruled college athletes can accept endorsement deals via the change to the name, image and likeness (NIL) ruling and it’s not just the players cashing in. Athletes and universities are using NIL rules to build even bigger brands through corporate partnerships.

While it's unclear which universities are using their first-party data to drive sponsorship engagement, sports teams are rich with valuable first and second-party data that improves programmatic campaigns and thus brands stand to gain a lot of value from partnering with college athletes and athletic programs—on and off the field.

Monetizing college sports

In 2021, the NCAA announced that student athletes will be allowed to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL). Prior to this, college athletes were compensated for the cost of certain parts of their education, such as tuition and room and board, but were not allowed to participate in sponsorships or make endorsement deals because it went against the NCAA's mission of promoting amateur athletics.

Universities, athletes, and corporate brands are all jumping on this new opportunity to build up their own brand image and awareness. According to INFLCR, a company which tries to connect college students with NIL deals, roughly half of the deals last year were worth less than $53. This may not sound like a lot, but when all the deals that happened last year are added together, it is estimated that college athletes collectively made over $900 million and that is certainly no pocket change.

Athletes have been afforded some pretty incredible opportunities in this new NIL era, spanning everything from HVAC to Kool-Aid sponsorships. Texas running back Bijan Robinson, one of the best running back options in the nation, even recently announced a partnership with luxury car manufacturer Lamborghini.

Evolving first-party data

Although most athletes won’t receive a Lamborghini sponsorship, there are a slew of benefits for the stakeholders involved. Athletic programs and universities are scrambling to create new opportunities that level up this new era of college athletics.

The University of Alabama is partnering with Fanatics to open the first-ever retail team store within their stadium called The Authentic for NIL merchandise. The University has perennially been Fanatic’s top-selling collegiate partner and this transformative partnership not only elevates the fan experience and delivers comprehensive service offerings across multiple product categories, but it enhances the focus on first-party data ownership strategies.

For venues, brands and rights holders the goal is to create more impactful partnerships and tangible access to fan bases. As a result, building up and having ownership over first-party data is key for these stakeholders to drive fans and consumers from awareness to conversion and towards personalized relationships.

As more and more of these partnerships are forming, it’s of critical essence for teams to have first-party data. Take the partnership between Spotify and FC Barcelona. Bringing music and football fans together may not seem intuitive at first, but bridging the two bases creates a global community with opportunities for both parties to connect with fans in a new, unique way.

The 280 million euro deal would have likely had a much larger price tag had it been for FC Barcelona having more first-party data on their fanbase. However, because the global club could only communicate with about 1% of their fanbase the price was driven down significantly. Nonetheless, this partnership brings a whole new level of scale and global reach, powered by first and second-party data initiatives.

As is evident by the ongoing transformation in the sports world, promoting first-party data strategies is imperative and creates an ecosystem of clear value exchange between brands and fans.

With a top-ranked U.S consumer database and experience in building a lifetime of loyalty, in the sprint to scale your first-party data Epsilon is here to drive better outcomes and get your brand to the finish line.